Columns, Sports

Ethan Hammerman ’13: Don’t take me out to the ball game

By
Sports Columnist
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd … ” Don’t you just hate that song? I mean, peanuts and Cracker Jack? If I go to a baseball game, I at least want a soft pretzel or hot dog for my troubles, not any of these chintzy, salty, dusty snack foods.

Now, I really hate some things about baseball. A lot. That’s not to say that I dislike everything about baseball. I love the concept of sabermetrics. And you won’t find someone who loves the atmosphere of going to games more than I do, but I just am not the type of person who can sit on a couch and watch a bunch of grown men swing a stick at a ball for four hours.

The main reason I cannot stand the game of baseball in general? The lack of a salary cap. I know that may seem ironic since I am a fan of the big-spending Red Sox, but it just isn’t fair. Consider that the Yankees basically have half of the 2006 AL All-Star starters in their lineup right now. That’s just ridiculous. One of the reasons why professional football has caught on so much is because of the parity. It is harder for teams to buy talent — they have to scout and get bang for their buck earlier instead. Sure, baseball is based on scouting, and it takes a good eye to pick up a solid player, but there are way too many opportunities to rectify one’s mistakes. It doesn’t serve to punish teams that are bad at scouting — instead, it just rewards the teams in large metro areas that have a lot of money.

You may be wondering why I am ranting about this. If you want to see the answer, look no further than the playoff schedule in this week’s TV Guide (Aside: is that even still in print?). New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and, once again, Los Angeles. Three of the top six metro areas in the country. You look at the year before that: Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston and, the outlier, Tampa Bay. In the past two years, seven of the eight second-round playoff teams have been from the top six metro areas in the country.

The odd one out, Tampa Bay, accumulated talent through the draft and, even with their scouting acumen, still got extremely lucky to make it where they did. Look at this year — you’d think that with an extra year of experience, the team would have been just as strong a contender as last year. However, unlike 2008, when the Rays won six more games than their Pythagorean numbers (runs scored vs. runs allowed) would indicate, this year they broke even in that statistic and ended up in third place in their division and out of the playoffs. Even the homegrown talent of Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford could not trump the acquisitions of Mark Teixeira and Jason Bay.

Let’s be frank for a moment. Baseball is dying a slow death as America’s pastime. The Super Bowl has already passed the World Series as the year’s premier sporting event. Regular season and playoff ratings were lower than ever this year. TBS is broadcasting playoff games, for heaven’s sake. TBS!

Maybe a little more parity is just what the doctor ordered. This new diversity of talent could make fans from smaller markets get more invested in the game than ever before. Sure, some large market teams would be upset, but it would just serve to make them more accountable for the players that they draft (stinks for the Mets). And, overall, the sport would become more competitive.

Or, at least, more unpredictable.


Ethan Hammerman ’13 is looking forward to a 2010 Nationals/Royals World Series.